Mexico's fledgling startups: Facebook-sized ambitions
By Gabriel Stargardter
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - In a mosquito-ridden hall in downtown Mexico City, hundreds of wannabe Mark Zuckerbergs gather to build the Latin American giant's newest industry, one app at a time.
"Hola, geeks!" says a U.S. speaker, addressing Mexico's future tech entrepreneurs at a recent 48-hour "hackathon," a networking event masquerading as an app-building contest.
Despite its proximity to the United States, Mexico is a relative late-comer to the Internet startup party. With only a handful of operating companies, the country still lags well behind regional leaders Chile, Argentina and Brazil, where government subsidies stoke dynamic local scenes.
But with a huge domestic market, surging connectivity, a stable, growing economy and a new, reform-minded government set to take the reins in December, that might be about to change.
"There's a big opportunity sitting on the table," said Doug Renert, a U.S. investor and invited speaker here who runs TandemCap, a mobile startup accelerator fund based near Silicon Valley. "There's a lot of money here."
"Within ten years, the industry could be worth 50 to 70 billion dollars," said Cesar Salazar, a managing partner at Mexican startup venture capital firm Mexican.VC, which was recently bought by 500 Startups, a U.S. accelerator fund.
Entrepreneurs say funding was hard to come by in previous years, but there are now incubators that finance startups, a handful of venture capital firms and a recently established $23 million government seed fund.
And among the iPad-wielding youngsters at the hackathon, who had 48 hours to build a mobile app that tackled Mexico City's pollution, traffic and public transport problems, the mood was decidedly upbeat. Continued...